Studio 651 Grows in Faith, Friendship with Help From First Alliance Volunteers

Pastor Benjamin Marsh of First Alliance Church in Winston-Salem and his volunteers are witness to faith blossoming among the people supported at Studio 651.

Jim Kelley, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Long-Term Services and Supports, invited Marsh, a member of Monarch’s Board of Directors, to take a tour of nearby Studio 651 to learn more about the programs offered and the people supported.

During that informational tour, an idea was born: incorporate a faith gathering made up of music, singing, scripture, prayer mixing in fellowship and friendship. The result has been a fostering of personal bonds, relationships and camaraderie between a core group of First Alliance volunteers and individuals attending Studio 651, a day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) offering music, art and other programs.

A group of about 10 First Alliance volunteers visit Studio 651 monthly. Support Coordinator Gloria Hunder explained that day program attendees are invited to participate in the themed prayer and scripture service led by Marsh, who brings his guitar to incorporate music into the event.

“This is not only a partnership but also a friendship,” she observed of the connection between First Alliance volunteers and the individuals who participate at Studio 651.

Marsh expressed a similar sentiment and said that is encouraging to not only see their faith but friendships developing. “Those participating have started making a shift to more ownership and contribution in leading the group, as well as ownership in their spiritual lives,” Marsh noted. “We don’t consider ourselves volunteers. We are fellowshipping with others who believe.”

Marsh said the Studio 651 men and women have offered many emotional prayer requests for friends, family and loved ones: “They are praying for people that are dying or in failing health . . . We are amazed at how deep their prayer requests are and their needs are.”
Marsh and the volunteers are enlightened and encouraged by the favorable comments about the monthly events from those that attend. “I have noticed a lot of thankfulness and excitement from the folks at Studio 651. I I have heard people say that they are so glad we are coming back,” Marsh said.

Tim and Becky Whaley, part of the First Alliance volunteer group, enjoy their time spent each month at Studio 651, admitting that they didn’t know what to expect at first. “I realized that it wasn’t just me sharing with them but that the more I listened, I realized I was one the who was learning. I was so touched by our time volunteering because of their honesty and their willingness to share,” Tim shared. “Their outward honesty is so real.”

“It has been a blessing to volunteer and interact with the people at Studio 651,” Becky said, adding that the day program participants are enthusiastic singers and truly enjoy the music.

It is rewarding to see the impact that a volunteer group can have, Marsh said. “If we can accomplish nothing else, it is an extraordinary moment in encountering each other, as well as to recognize the image of God that it is in them and within them,” Marsh described. “Our wish for them is to be connected in their communities.”

Marsh said the group continues to explore ways to introduce other faith-based programs in collaboration with Studio 651 including opening their monthly event to the public.

Photo caption: Pastor Benjamin Marsh, guitar in hand, leads Studio 651 day program participants in song during a recent event incorporating volunteers from First Alliance Church in Winston-Salem.